In my study of happiness, I’ve labored to identify its fundamental principles. Because I get a tremendous kick out of the numbered lists that pop up throughout Buddhism (the Triple Refuge, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Four Noble Truths, the eight auspicious symbols), I decided to dub these fundamental principles as my Eight Splendid Truths.
Each one of these truths sounds fairly obvious and straightforward, but each was the product of tremendous thought. Take the Second Splendid Truth—it’s hard to exaggerate the clarity I gained when I finally managed to put it into words. Here they are:
- To be happier, you have to think about feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
- One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; one of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
- The days are long, but the years are short. (Click here to see my one-minute movie; of everything I’ve written about happiness, I think this video resonates most with people.)
- You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy. (Many argue the opposite case. John Stuart Mill, for example, wrote, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” I disagree.)
- I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature.
- The only person I can change is myself.
- Happy people make people happy, but I can’t make someone be happy, and no one else can make me happy.
- Now is now.
What did I miss? What Splendid Truth is missing from that list? Now I’m trying to come up with my personal eight auspicious symbols for happiness. Let’s see—bluebird, ruby slippers, dice, blood, bird house, treasure box, roses…hmmm. I will have to keep thinking about that.
A version of this post originally appeared on Gretchen Rubin’s website, where she writes about her experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits.